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  • Writer's pictureDr. Domenico Pratico

The Mediterranean Diet: Past, Present, and Future ~ Domenico Pratico, MD, FCPP

Mediterranean Diet

The Past

More than 70 years ago, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, Leland Allbaugh published a survey on the island of Crete. In his report, he described the diet of the Cretan people as “surprisingly good” and “extremely well adapted to their natural and economic resources as well as their needs.” He noted that bread and olive oil were main components of the diet, providing a large portion of the daily energy intake. The diet also included olives, cereal grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and limited quantities of goat meat, milk, and fish. This was likely the first description of the Mediterranean diet.


The second significant endorsement of the Mediterranean diet came from the Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keys. This study compared diets and lifestyles across the USA, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, former Yugoslavia, and Japan. It revealed that countries where olive oil was the main dietary fat (Italy and Greece) had lower rates of death from any cause and coronary heart disease compared to northern European and U.S. countries.


The Present

Today, the Mediterranean diet describes a dietary pattern characterized by a predominance of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, cereals with minimal processing, nuts, and seeds), moderate dairy intake (e.g., cheese and yogurt), low-to-moderate fish and poultry consumption, and low red meat intake. Over the past two decades, this diet has been extensively investigated due to its potential health benefits. A recent paper, reviewing meta-analyses of observational studies and randomized clinical trials involving over 12,800,000 participants, found robust evidence linking adherence to the Mediterranean diet with reduced risks of death from any cause, cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and diabetes.


The Future


Given the substantial health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, its preventive value should be widely promoted as a healthy dietary option. In the future, it will be essential for health professionals and the general population to become familiar with this diet and its potential positive effects on diseases. Information on adopting healthy eating habits should be integrated into clinical practice and medical school curricula worldwide.


However, individuals should be prepared to make variations to the Mediterranean diet based on personal preferences, cost, and cultural or religious considerations, while striving to retain its health benefits.

Domenico Praticò, MD, holds the position of the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research and serves as a Professor and the Director at the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, as well as a Professor of Pharmacology at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

For more information on the research conducted by Dr. Domenico Pratico, please visit this link.

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Stay updated with the work happening at Dr. Domenico Pratico's lab by visiting the Pratico Lab website. 


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